Biden plans swift action but Trump trial threatens unity

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Joe Biden has promised quick action to address the coronavirus pandemic and boost the ailing United States (US) economy once he takes office tomorrow, but his goal of uniting the divided country could be undermined by the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump.

The president-elect has promised to immediately reverse some of Trump’s more controversial moves, and he can do so by executive action. He has vowed to return “on Day One” to the Paris climate agreement.

Trump in 2017 announced plans to withdraw from the international accord, prompting global recriminations.

And Biden has said he will also immediately end Trump’s controversial ban on travel from several Muslim-majority countries.

US President-elect Joe Biden. PHOTO: AP

The start of the Biden era promises to be busy: An official statement on Saturday promised a burst of action in his first 10 days, with “dozens” of executive actions and directives to follow.

But while Biden can make the consequential changes on the Paris accord and the travel ban with the stroke of a pen, the Senate impeachment trial seems sure to slow his efforts to galvanise the response to COVID-19 and to revive the nation’s stumbling economy.

The Lower House of Representatives impeached Trump on a charge of inciting insurrection after he encouraged the January 6 protest that led to the violent storming of the US Capitol.

Trump’s first impeachment trial, in January 2020 over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to help him discredit Biden, lasted 21 days.

A trial of similar length now would crimp Biden’s ambitious plans for his first 100 days, but he has expressed confidence, based on his 36 years in the Senate, that the chamber can do two things at once.

“I hope that the Senate leadership will find a way to deal with their constitutional responsibilities on impeachment while also working on the other urgent business of this nation,” he said after the House voted for impeachment.

Biden suggested that the Senate, under Democratic control beginning tomorrow, might spend half-days on the trial and devote the rest of its time to hearings to confirm Biden’s Cabinet, a pressing priority.